Calaveras County came up with $46,000 owed to the San Andreas Sanitary District last week, paying-down five months of backed-up sewer bills at the new county jail.
The check, cut by county administrators Friday, ensures ongoing negotiations between sanitary district and county officials looking to restructure a years-old contract to supply the county’s Criminal Justice Complex with some 24,850 gallons of sewer capacity per day.
That project has since been scaled back by a third, leaving the county with more than adequate sewer capacity and what county officials see as a less-than-adequate contract, according to County Counsel Janis Elliott.
“The contract does say the county is responsible for paying applicable monthly service charges for additional sewer capacity at the county jail from May 1 or upon the completion of the county jail, whichever occurs first,” Elliott said last week.
“As I recall, the district originally told the county there was no additional capacity available at the treatment facility. I don’t recall the exact mechanism as to how the additional capacity was found, but I have a vague recollection that you changed your ordinance for those that already have connection permits.”
Sanitary District Board President Bill Perley didn’t take discussions of the monthly service charge off the table, though he did say that he felt those talks were “beside the point.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Perley said. “I’m confused and I think everybody is, because you haven’t paid your bill for five months. I understand you want to renegotiate, but typically people pay their bills. … So the main issue as far as I see it is that they haven’t paid their bill.”
Board of Supervisors Chair-man Gary Tofanelli suggested it wasn’t that simple. He said the county and sewer district “just couldn’t get together.”
“If you go back just a few months ago, we tried to get a meeting with you guys on your regular agenda and meet when we could all meet,” Tofanelli explained. “We had set up a date that didn’t suffice for everybody and then the last meeting you said your attorney wouldn’t be present and so we’re here today.”
“But we’re certainly willing to rectify what needs to be rectified and then I can take (renegotiations) back to my board,” he added. “Because we would like to open the door to negotiations over that additional capacity, because we certainly don’t need it, and we’d certainly like to make them available to you so you can make it available to someone else.”
According to sanitary district Director Terry Strange, moving that sewer capacity off the books and on to the market may not be as easy as it sounds.
“I don’t think we’ll have any trouble getting rid of (the extra capacity),” Strange explained. “But once you sell those EDUs (equivalent dwelling units) they don’t come back.”
“We budget on those,” he added. “We base our business rates on how much is dumped into our sewer, on EDUs, so when somebody buys extra capacity they have to pay for it.”
Tofanelli, while sympathetic to that sentiment, said the county needed to move on to a renegotiated contract.
“This contract is negotiated for three buildings: the jail itself, the Sheriff’s Office and the dormitory. The dormitory did not get built. It may never get built. If it does, we’ll re-address the issue of EDUs and whatever needs to be done.
“The contract allows for us to negotiate,” he concluded. “So we will make them whole and then enter into negotiations on the 160-bed facility.”